Wal-Mart, unions fund battles over labor laws

Each side made sizable campaign contributions in New York state as a retail jobs tax credit got stitched into a minimum wage bill.

By Jason Notte Apr 17, 2013 9:25AM
Wal-Mart store in Secaucus, New Jersey / Jin Lee/Bloomberg via Getty ImagesThe battle over minimum wage increases may look like it's being fought in the halls of government, but a recent spat between unions and retailers implies otherwise: It's taking place anywhere a labor group or company like Wal-Mart (WMT) can drop a few envelopes of cash.

In March, the New York state legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo increased the minimum wage from $7.25 to $9 an hour over the next three years. Tucked away in the far paragraphs of the law are tax credits for employers who hire seasonal employees ages 16 to 19 who are still in school. Those credits add up to $20 million to $40 million a year with no cap on the payments.

The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), which represents workers in grocery and retail stores, and in food-processing and meatpacking companies, says a series of campaign contributions by Wal-Mart made just before the vote may have led to those tax benefits.

Wal-Mart has contributed more than $105,000 to New York Republican senators and Assembly members over the past two years as Democratic support for the issue grew, state election records show. In addition, Wal-Mart provided $400,000 since January 2011, most of it in 2012, to a state Republican Senate account that can be used for several purposes.

Is it the "legal bribery" UFCW and its Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union colleagues imply? If so, the unions aren't doing such a bad job greasing palms, either. The RWDSU and its locals contributed $92,000 since 2010 to local and state candidates, mostly Democrats. The UFCW and its locals contributed $288,000 during the period.

Wal-Mart is a nonunion shop, but labor unions have given it plenty of grief over working conditions and wages in recent years. The giant discounter actually sued unions in Florida for "illegal trespass" after they protested increased store hours on Black Friday last year.

The issue has also put Wal-Mart at a disadvantage with its warehouse-size competitors at Costco (COST), which is lobbying for a higher minimum wage, paying its starting employees nearly $3 more an hour than Wal-Mart and considering benefits like health care untouchable. Oh, and Costco just signed a three-year contract with the Teamsters.

With unions seeking public financing of political campaigns and Wal-Mart looking to maintain the bottom line, the two groups at a stalemate. Considering that New York workers still received their minimum wage increase and Costco has used every Wal-Mart/union dustup to build market share, it's a stalemate Wal-Mart still somehow managed to lose.

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Apr 17, 2013 1:21PM

unions have been funding democrats for years... and corporaitons fund the other ones...


its all bribes.  plain and simple.  i give you money, you give me what i ask for.  BRIBE.  but its legal if yuo follow the law (walmart and unions)... and illegal if you dont. (blagoevich)  but its the same scenario either way.


money for perks.

Apr 17, 2013 1:43PM
What? WOW? What the hell happened to this country. Ok 7.25 an hour barely covers the cost of gas for a vehicle just to drive back and forth to work. It does not cover the average rent in a bad neighborhood and less then half in a OK neighborhood. It's barely enough to cover just utilities water, electric and gas. So what you're saying is because you were lucky enough to have an opportunity to go to school and got the education which provided you the ability to more then cover your bills that anyone else should just be on the street? Wow what a peice of ****. Let's stop pussy footing around what this is. It's greed! Wal Mart Execs are making a ton of money. Hell they could cut there pay by a third and still live better then most. It's just time to place some checks and balances on a federal level. Want smaller government then obtain some morals and values. If walmart can Profit Billions, pay there execs Billions of dollars a year they can afford to pay Joe/Jane Schmoe 10$ an hour. Which btw is still only about 20k a year.  
Apr 17, 2013 1:33PM

Instead of using a union as the answer why don't we reign in executive salaries. I been a member of three different unions  over my lifetime and they did nothing for me! In fact, two of them screwed the workers. Unions are big at telling you all the things they do for you and how much you need them. The truth is a good worker can accomplish most of the same goals without a union. If unions are so great how about they pay themselves them same you get paid and when they tell you to strike they suffer the same wage loss you do while on that strike. Why should they be treated any different? It used to be that the highest paid exectuive only made four times what the lowest paid worker got. Why not go back to that formula? Why pay the C.E.O. $10,000,000 per year when the company is losing $2,000,000? If we paid him $6,000,000 the company would actually show a $2,000,000 profit and they could afford to pay good workers better. Yes, it's nice to dream! 

Apr 17, 2013 1:26PM
It will be a joyous day indeed when Wal-Mart goes the way of W.T. Grants.
Apr 27, 2013 3:49PM
In my opinion all large companies in retail should have a union. There is astronomical abuse at every level to employees that have no protection. They should be fined or worse (but I know that money is the only thing that gets their attention) for threatening to fire workers for even getting informed about unions. It is absolutely abhorrent the way large retailers treat their employees, threaten their jobs to get "loyalty", and basically use slave labor for the company's enrichment. Walmart is a prime example of the worst place to work, the worst treatment both verbally and physically, with the worst rewards. It has set it's self up to fall and I can not wait. Of course if a union came in they would probably fail within a year. And they no it! That is why at meetings they all but tell the associate they will be terminated if they talk to ANY one about a union.
Apr 17, 2013 2:45PM
it took 30+ years of (Reaganomics), for trickle down economics to trickle most wealth up into the hands of the 1%, just how long do you think it will take to reverse this enormous transfer of wealth back into the consumers pocket, consumers aren't consumers without money to spend, no consumers no economy, get used to it and like it as Romney said...............just has to be Obama's fault..........
Apr 18, 2013 9:24AM
Got to love the bribery from both sides.  how's about we let each side make a presentation in front of all of congress so they can make an educated decision.  The more money you can cut out of influencing the political system the better the decisions that will be made.
Apr 18, 2013 12:43PM
theduderific:  have you cashed out your stocks yet, if not you still have worthless paper, were you in stocks during last crash, if so you are still behind, admit it, sucker, made no bad choices here, have never owned any worthless paper (stocks), try working for a living, quit thinking you are going to make a windfall, better yet go to work for Walmart or buy some more of their worthless stock, just think you might make a fortune with your limited cash to purchase their stock, or you can really make some big money being a Walmart employee at $8/hr....... got just about every thing I need here, not wishing and hoping just enjoying life, it must be Obama's fault that you claim to have stuck it rich in last 4 years ????  Tip: buy land not worthless paper........Stock Market, it is just like Vegas, everybody you talk to claims they make money, they never lose,  yet for every 3 winners there are 97 losers....which one are you ???????  Hurry, you still have time to catch a flight to Vegas...........  
Apr 17, 2013 2:01PM
BRING BACK ALL UNIONS. If you want a living wage you are NOT going to get it unless you join a union, so don't blame Wal-Mart or any other store ! You have to blame yourself for saying "I won't pay for  union dues to keep a job" That line is why you only get minimum wages and no future increases or promotions. Unions protects your job from management that for some reason may not like you or from some other worker who don't like you and tries to do your job and screws it up and you get blamed or fired. Unions are there to protect you from but heads in the workplace and you do have a right to unionize and if they try to stop you by firing you they have opened a can of worms and you can SUE, But it's better to do things right and legal. Remember Wal-Mart-Target  All the big stores need to be unionized for the betterment of the people who work their!!!!. Wages need to be @ $15.00 an hour just to get by BUT remember at that wage you had better earn it and don't call in to work and cry about "I'M sick and can't come to work" You have to be to work on time clean and ready to go and NO stealing from the company you have to stand up and be a responsible employee and be a professional at what you do. To many people today think they can just show up and get paid for hiding in a corner, Think again you are a problem and will get fired. YOU NEED TO GROW UP and take on the job of GROWING UP!.
Apr 17, 2013 1:40PM

Thanks for the information concerning Costco.  This solidifies my support for Wal-Mart as supporting any company that is in agreement with the socialist union movement is not where I will conduct business. 

Apr 17, 2013 2:20PM
Unions may have been necessary in the early 1900's but are totally outdated now. Especially public unions. Reagan had the right idea with the airport controllers. "Go Walmart"!!! My father was in a union for 30 years and got nothing but _ _ _ _ on.
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